Linking rainforest restoration with land stewardship in Costa Rica.
Restoration and Management Notes. v. 13, no. 2 p. s.p. 1995.
Leopold, A.C.; Finkeldey, A. Cornell University Boyce Thompson Institute of Plant Research, Tropical Forestry Initiative, Tower Road, Box 285 Ithaca, NY 14853 US E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
PLANTS. SPERMATOPHYTES. MAGNOLIOPHYTA. MAGNOLIOPSIDA. TROPICAL RAIN FORESTS. RAIN FOREST RESTORATION. BIODIVERSITY. GROWTH. TREE HEIGHT. CONSERVATION. HABITAT. DEFORESTATION. FOREST RESTORATION. LAND USE. INDIGENOUS ORGANISMS. NATURAL WET FORESTS. FOREST REPLANTING. COMBRETACEAE. TERMINALIA CATAPPA. VOCHYSIACEAE. VOCHYSIA HONDURENSIS. VOCHYSIA FERRUGINEA. TILIACEAE. GOETHALSIA MEIANTHA. MORACEAE. BROSIMUM UTILE. FABACEAE/CAE. SCHIZOLOBIUM PARAHYBA. REFORESTATION. COSTA RICA. CENTRAL AMERICA. DOMINICAL. AREA DE CONSERVACION PACIFICO CENTRAL. TROPICAL FORESTRY INITIATIVE.
Inspired by a concern for the loss of tropical rainforests, our group of four families has launched an effort not only to restore these forests but to demonstrate the benefits of such work to local people. Our non-profit corporation "The Tropical Forest Initiative (TFI)" owns approximately 125 ha (310 acres) near the Pacific coast of southwestern Costa Rica, where we have begun replanting mixed stands of native trees on land converted from rainforest to pasture. Ranchers cleared the majority of the rainforests in this region in the 1960s and 1970s for cattle grazing. The recent decline in the international market for lean beef has, however, left local campesinos without a source of income. The end result is an impoverished human population living in a depleted natural environment of underutilized pastures and plantation monocultures of exotic trees such as Eucalyptus and Gmelina. We see three options for meeting the crisis of the disappearing rainforests: 1) preservation; 2) using the degraded areas for plantation forestry; or 3) restoration. Since the Costa Rican government is promoting the first two alternatives, we decided to explore the potential for rainforest restoration, which otherwise would have been ignored. In 1993, with the help of our local neighbors, we collected our first batch of seeds from surviving remnants of the local rainforest. We relied on our neighbors' knowledge to locate flowering or fruiting trees, some of which we found only after hiking several hours into the rainforest. The methods we have used to collect ripe seeds would rival many circus acts dangling from ropes, shooting down seeds with slingshots, as well as collecting seeds from nets hung below branches and on the ground. After two years of these activities, we had gathered and planted the seeds of 36 species of native rainforest trees known to produce high-quality hardwoods. From these seeds, we obtained 8,000 seedlings that we planted on approximately 10 ha (25 acres) of pasture. In 1995, we collected and planted seeds from 18 additional species on another 5 ha (12.5 acres). Using quadrats and transects, we are monitoring the site to determine the growth rates of these species under various conditions. Some of the results have been impressive. For example,several leguminous species, in addition to gallinazo (Schizolobium parahyba) and amarillón (Terminalia amazona), have grown as high as 7 m (23 feet) in two years, and probably will form a complete canopy within the next two years. We suspect that these results reflect a biological adaptability to local soil and weather conditions. To study this point further, and to provide important baseline information about future changes in the forest composition, we are also recording transformations in soil nutrient levels, tilth, and pH. In addition to species that we planted, we have recorded a number of native species that seeded-in from neighboring primary and secondary forest remnants. The most abundant of these species include mayo blanco (Vochysia hondurensis), mayo colorado (V. ferruginea), guácimo (Goethalsia meiantha), and lechoso (Brosimum utile). We are optimistic that planted species combined with natural seeding will produce an increasing level of diversity in the next five years. Growing native trees is, however, only part of our purpose. Success in rainforest restoration will be meaningful only if the local people perceive that they, too, can realize advantages from planting native trees. To this end, we have encouraged local Costa Ricans to participate in the process of both restoring and utilizing diverse stands of native trees. For instance, we helped form an association of local families to encourage good forestry practices within the region. The TFI provides a portable bandsaw to the member families for cutting lumber with minimal damage to the forest. However, the association also requires families to plant replacement seedlings, which we supply, for each tree har vested. Members of TFI have also begun working with local schools teachingtree identification to children and providing them with seeds and seedlings. We have also helped local women start a collection of local medicinal herbs in our nursery. Finally, we have joined a local alliance (ASANA) that promotes ecologically-sound land use and encourages the establishment of corridors of native rainforest between the Pacific coast and the mountains to the east of our farm. These corridors will allow both plants and animals to migrate along their lengths, thereby increasing the biodiversity of the region. It is our aim to demonstrate that planting a mix of native tree species can not only produce a valuable approximation of rainforest, but that rural people can also benefit from the stewardship and careful harvesting of their own native forest materials.